Spielman Says Ohio State 'Perfect Situation' For Meyer
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the back of the capacity-breached room, watching intently as his friend Urban Meyer was introduced as Ohio State's 24th head football coach, stood former Buckeye great Chris Spielman. The College Football Hall of Famer was witnessing the next stage in Ohio State football history, and it just happened to be his friend and colleague who was going to be leading the Buckeyes through it.
The former All-American linebacker couldn't have been happier. Spielman, having dedicated the rest of his life to helping his university raise funds for breast cancer research, had no doubts that Ohio State had landed the right man, and not only had they had landed the right man, but they had also kept the right man as well.
“In my eyes it's a homerun,” Spielman said moments after Monday's press conference.
“That being said, I would like Luke [Fickell] to be a head coach because I think he'd be a great coach. But if he doesn't want to do it yet, or he still wants to be a part of this, I think that's a win-win. It's a huge win for Urban. I couldn't be more pleased and happy for both guys.”
Part of the reason for asking Fickell to stay was to keep Meyer from returning to a place that he said he had no desire to go back to—being consumed with trying to do everybody else's job. Meyer has intentions of delegating more than he did in his final season at Florida, and his family has designs on holding him to that.
But this is very big-time college football. Is it even possible to win if you're not consumed by it? Meyer said he spoke to many different coaches about it and is convinced that it's not impossible, and Spielman agrees.
“You've got to hire good people,” he explained.
“You've got to be able to delegate and hire good people, and trust people to do what you want them to do, and then do your job. Woody wrote the book on it—you win with people. In all walks of life, it's who you surround yourself with. A coaching staff is a team within a team.”
Luke Fickell is one piece of that team, with many more yet to come. Spielman is confident that Meyer will lean on his staff more than he has in the past because the level of consumption that he was working with in the past just wasn't healthy for him or his family.
“We talked a lot about life issues,” Spielman said.
“I think that he's always been a great father and a great husband, but I think sometimes things can consume you—especially football if you're a competitor, and I'm very open about that as a player, it consumed me completely and totally.
“There's choices that we all have to make. But I think he has checks in place to make sure he maintains that balance. And people will hold him accountable to what he says. I think it's very possible that he can be just as successful, just as effective, just as great a coach without ever having to sleep in the office, because that accomplishes nothing.”
Throughout the weeks of broadcasting games and the various talks that the two have had, it became quite clear to Spielman that Meyer missed coaching. Meyer would draw up plays that he liked during broadcasts, or while watching film. He and Spielman would compare notes and it was obvious that Meyer was keeping tabs on the things that he was seeing.
“I knew it was a matter of time, but it had to be the right situation,” he said. “I think if he was going to get back into it, this is the perfect situation for him personally to get back into it.”
Meyer's own statements echoed Spielman's, saying that “if it was but for the coaching position at The Ohio State University, I would not have coached this coming year”.
But it was Ohio State, and so now he is coaching this coming year. There is no coincidence in Meyer's decision because it had everything to do with The Ohio State University.
It couldn't have come as a surprise to Spielman, who saw the Buckeye fire in Meyer's eyes in the first game they broadcast together—Ohio State's season opener against Akron.
“Watching him get excited when we did the Akron game,” Spielman reflected back.
“When I saw the passion and tears come to his eyes when the band came out doing 'Script Ohio'. Right before we went on the air I said, 'Dude, you've got to get yourself together here, man! You've got to get it going.' His passion is there for Ohio State. He knows what he is. He's a Buckeye.”
Spielman knows his Buckeyes well, and when he says somebody is a Buckeye, understand that he knows what he's talking about. He also knows his football, so when talk turns to the possibility of joining Meyer's staff, he doesn't hesitate to answer with a quiet “No” before the question can even be fully asked.
“I think for me, I serve my university in a more important capacity than being a football coach,” he said.
“And not that that's not important, but I've made promises that I intend to keep until I'm dead. Those promises were to Steph and many other people at Ohio State, and to myself.
“If ever I were to coach, it would be for him because I believe in the guy so much and what he stands for. But I think I serve our university in a more important capacity with my involvement with the fundraising for The Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.”
Two friends, each dedicating their lives to the university in different ways, but both thrilled to be doing so.
“It's something that you embrace,” Spielman said.
“I think it's just awesome to watch and see. I know what it means to be an Ohio guy and be able to take upon this responsibility and what an honor it is, and I know he'll treat it like one.”
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